The summer before you go to college can feel strange. Feelings of sentimentality, worry, and excitement all fill your head at once, making it difficult to know exactly how you should spend your time. If you aren’t taking classes or doing an internship already, you have lots of unstructured time on your hands. Remember, busy does not necessarily equate to being productive! Here are some ways to use the upcoming summer to set you up for success for college and beyond!

Figure out a sleep schedule

Odds are, as you were preparing to apply for an elite college these past four years, you missed out on many valuable hours of sleep. As you head off to college, you should anticipate that it will be a huge test of your time management skills, and learning to prioritize sleep in your schedule is a key step in preparing for that. The summer before college is a time where you can cultivate solid bedtime and morning routines. Developing and sticking to a routine sleep schedule that works for you will help you thrive in college. You can follow these tips to get started on creating your new sleep schedule.

Learn More about Your College

Even though social media is often guilty of distracting you from homework or keeping you up later than you should be, it can be a great tool for connecting with your future classmates. You can join your college’s or class year’s Facebook group, follow on-campus organizations on Instagram, and even connect on LinkedIn with current students you look up to. With all of these ways to engage at your fingertips, you’re much less likely to feel lonely or lost when you arrive at your college this fall.

Your college’s website will also have loads of information to offer. You can build up your excitement by researching different clubs and activities you want to join, or which ones don’t exist and you can create! It’s also never too early to look into the incredible fellowship and study abroad opportunities your school might have. The sooner you learn about ways you can take advantage of those programs, the sooner you can start preparing for them in order to enrich your college experience.

Considering the unique circumstances regarding the college application and matriculation processes this year, you can spend these next few months exploring how your future college is responding to the current situation. Is your school blending in-person and distance learning, and if so, how? How can you establish community with your future peers, and what unique opportunities are available to be a part of the campus community virtually? Keep up with the latest announcements your school makes, and connect with your future peers via social media!

Find Ways to Give Back to Your Community

As you’re heading off to college this fall, it’s important to consider that you will be entering an exclusive and privileged space. It’s also important to acknowledge that not everyone has the same opportunities that may have been afforded to you. That’s why we recommend volunteering throughout the summer before college. Opening your eyes to the world around you will give you a conscientious perspective before entering college, if you don’t have one already. Be careful to respect whatever space you’re in, and be open-minded and genuine toward the community with which you’re engaging. You shouldn’t choose to volunteer somewhere just because it’s conveniently located, or involves traveling to a country you’ve always wanted to visit, as voluntourism is not the same thing as volunteering. Do a bit of research about some causes that are important to you so that when you begin volunteering, you give and get joy. This can look like making weekly calls to a resident of a nursing home, reading to children via Zoom on behalf of your local library, or offering meals and a friendly face to unhoused people. Find something that is meaningful to both you and the community that weighs most heavily on your heart.

Pick Up a Hobby

From a young age, your parents, teachers, or other mentors may have pushed you to pursue an interest that wasn’t even your own. So after years of practicing violin just because someone told you to, it’s time to explore your own interests, whether or not you or your parents think they look good on a resume. Doing so is not only a healthy act of self-care, but also can be your road to discovering a hobby that you’ll pursue in the future.

Depending on whether you want to enjoy more alone time, engage with your community, or spend time with your family, you can choose to develop a skill that helps satisfy one of those goals. You can teach yourself a language or instrument from the comfort of your own bedroom. Likewise, you can take dance classes online and invite your friends to join! Whatever you do, just make sure you’re doing it for yourself and yourself only, not because of what you think other people expect you to do.

Read and Stay Informed

College is full of late-night conversations about technology, philosophy, politics, and the arts. In preparation for this, it’s a good idea to get “cultured” and “up-to-date” by reading up on everything from Plato’s Republic to how the current pandemic has affected countries across the world. Whatever you do, find a way to keep up with important topics or subjects that matter to you and the world around you. This way, you can confidently engage in the many stimulating conversations to come in college. If you don’t think you have time for reading, limit your social media scrolling this summer or find some time before bed to read, and let your eyes settle on some insightful content.

Develop Vital Skills

On the one hand, the summer before college is a nice time to relax and enjoy being a kid for a few more months, but on the other hand, you’d be remiss not to prepare at least a little bit for this upcoming independent season of your life. Once you find the right balance between preparing and relaxing, here are some skills can devote time to developing:

  • Learn how to manage emotions related to anxiety and stress. You may explore meditation, journaling, or exercise. Many college students don’t manage their stress well, and it leads to serious mental health issues. You want to be equipped to cope with whatever life throws your way. Find what works for you so you already have the tools you need once you get to college.
  • If your dorm or building will have a kitchen, you can learn how to cook. There may be times the dining hall food doesn’t look too appetizing, or you’re craving your favorite food from home. Summer is a great time to practice making your favorite foods to comfort you when you’re homesick or craving something that isn’t offered at the dining halls.
  • Unless you want to shrink all your sweaters and dye all of your whites pink, you should probably learn how to do laundry before you go to college. Ask your mom or dad or grandparents to show you how they’ve been doing it all these years.
  • Boost your financial literacy by reading articles, finding books, or watching YouTube videos that tell you everything you need to know about savings, credit, loans, and investing. You’ll enter the “real world” sooner than you think! College is a great time to slowly and steadily prepare for your transition to adult life. Make a plan for how you’ll manage your finances and consider creating a budget for college.
  • Most importantly, you need to get ready to talk to people who, on the surface, appear to have nothing in common with you. College brings together people from all over the world who have diverse backgrounds, world views, interests, and ways of life. A good way to prepare yourself for these interactions would be to check out media from sources you wouldn’t normally look at, engage politely in the comments, and see the world through a different pair of eyes.

Create a four-year plan

We don’t mean you need to plan every detail of your college life, down to what you’ll eat for breakfast on the first Wednesday of junior year. You don’t need to obsess over your future, and should fully enjoy this last summer before college. But having a general roadmap for your college years can help you stay focused and driven. Figure out what general education requirements you need, what majors your college offers, and what classes you definitely want to take so that you can get an idea of courses you’ll take each year. If there are any study abroad programs or internships you expect you’ll want to apply for, look into the requirements (like a GPA minimum or prerequisite courses so that you can prepare accordingly. You don’t want to miss out on awesome opportunities and these next four years will go by before you know it.

At the end of the day, your last summer before college is your time, and you should choose what to do with it– not your school, not your parents, and certainly not us! But, when July comes around, these are a few productive ways to make the most of your summer that you can always fall back on!

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